Celebrating 15 years of Black Trash
Will Lavin

20:35 22nd May 2016

The beauty of music is that it's subjective. There isn’t a right or wrong answer when it comes to voicing an opinion on art. There are however, the undeniable classics that everyone can agree on: All Eyez on Me, Ready to Die, Illmatic, Doggystyle, The Marshall Mathers LP, to name but a few.

Then there are those slept-on classics that everyone you speak to has nothing but good things to say about - but for whatever reason, they didn’t quite get the notoriety they deserved. One of these albums is Sticky Fingaz’ Black Trash: The Autobiography of Kirk Jones.

Celebrating its 15 year anniversary, it’s hard to believe that the hard-hitting debut solo LP from the Onyx MC has been around that long, especially as it sounds as fresh today as it did back in 2001.

Easily one of hip-hop’s finest concept albums, its story arc format and cohesively on-point narrative puts it in the same discussion as Prince Paul’s A Prince Among Thieves and Kendrick Lamar’s good kid m.A.A.d city. Telling the tale of ex-con Kirk Jones - who although shares the same government name as Sticky Fingaz, isn’t actually based on him - and his struggle to deal with life after incarceration, Black Trash is a turbulent ride that explores faith, family, falling back into the street life, the relationship issues of a felon, and money being the root of all evil (the song 'Money Talks' plays like Nas’ 'I Gave You Power' but from the first-person perspective of money instead of a gun).

Featuring some high-profile guests in the form of Eminem, Raekwon, Redman, and Onyx brethren Fredro Starr, and with production by the likes of DJ Scratch, Nottz, and Rockwilder, Universal Records were on to a winner. That is until Sticky broke his foot in a barroom brawl right before the album’s release meaning the album had to be pushed back, the original tour to promote the album had to be scrapped, and the marketing that had already gone out was to no avail.

Chopping it up with Gigwise in-between shooting music videos for his upcoming new project, It’s About T.I.M.E., Sticky Fingaz revisits his debut album.

 It’s been 15 years since the release of Black Trash, can you believe it?

"Yeah, I can believe it. It doesn’t feel like 15 years but I can believe it."

What was the relevance of the Black Trash title?

"Well the title was Black Trash and the subtitle was The Autobiography of Kirk Jones because the story was about this guy, Kirk Jones, who was basically black trash. And even though Kirk Jones is my real government name it wasn’t about me. Instead of picking some random name I just used my own name."

Many hip-hop fans believe Black Trash to be one of the most slept-on albums of the past 20 years. Do you agree with this and why do you think it’s slept-on?

"Yes, I would agree with that. I think it was partly because the marketing was kinda messed up around that point. I was supposed to go on this huge tour and the day before the tour I broke my fucking foot in some bar room brawl. On top of that I just think maybe people weren’t ready for it, it might have been ahead of its time."

Surely you get people coming up to you and telling you it’s dope everyday, right?

"Yeah absolutely, especially as I had so many different concepts on there. You know, talking to God, courtroom scenes, shit… seeing my little brother. It was well rounded. It was full of topics, content, guest appearances as well. The beats were insane. The lyrics were well thought out, creative, lyrical, exciting, heartfelt."

So the marketing wasn’t what it should have been?

"Well yeah. Everything got pushed back. The album was supposed to be released at a certain time [which it didn’t]. The tour was supposed to happen but then like I said I broke my foot so that kinda messed up the marketing, the tour and the release date."

How long were you out with the broken foot?

"I think it was like three months."

Why was it your only solo album on Universal?

"Probably because it didn’t sell the number of records they thought it was going to sell."

So they dropped you?

"Nah, I didn’t get dropped but in the same token I didn’t get picked up either. It wasn’t a multiple album deal, it was just one album. If I had sold fucking 10 million copies I’m sure they would have been trying to renegotiate another album, at which point I would have stuck them up."

What are some of your fondest memories making the album?

"Man! It was a lot of fun recording the album. X1 and Canibus was about to fight inside the studio. Fucking Raekwon came and did his thing. [DJ] Scratch came to the studio with one beat, I said to him, 'Hold up! The producer that just left he had like 20 beats. How many beats you got Scratch?' He said he only had one beat. I was like, 'One beat!?' He said, 'Sticky, chill. This is ‘the’ beat.' And lo and behold it ended up being the first single, which was 'Get It Up'.

"Shit, there are so many memories. When Eminem came through to do the song 'What If I Was White', we was in the studio for hours and he had me cracking up for three hours straight, there was a lot of great memories."

Why were X1 and Canibus going to fight?

"It wasn’t like they had a little beef with one another it was just X1 didn’t really like, well, it wasn't that he didn’t really like Canibus, they had battled before in front of The Tunnel and those that saw it were like, 'Oh, Canibus kinda got at you a little bit.' So I guess X1 felt a certain way about that so when he saw him again he wanted to pop off on him."

Do you have a favourite track on the album?

"I don’t know. I look at the album as a complete body of work, a complete animal. But maybe 'Oh My God', 'Money Talks', 'State vs. Kirk Jones'. Basically like all them shits, you know what I’m saying? 'Baby Brother'. There’s a lot of classics on that shit."

Now while the album is supposed to be a fictional tale are any of the events on the album based on true events from your own life?

"Not really, it’s a fictional tale. But I did have to pull from reality. You know what I’m saying?"

So nothing in particular that stands out?

"From my real life? Well the album I’m working on right now, It’s About T.I.M.E., and T.I.M.E. is an acronym that stands for The Illest Motherfucker Ever, is about the illest mother fucker ever and it’s the story of my life. It’s not Black Trash part two or anything but it is a concept album like Black Trash, where it’s the story of my life from beginning to end, from birth to right now. And I have actually filmed a movie to each song and I’m not even in it until the end of the entire album.

"I’ve got a four year old, a seven year old, and a 17 year old playing the young Sticky Fingaz in the piece. All the actors had to shave their head bald to get the part. So to answer the question, Black Trash didn’t really take anything from my real life but this new album is about my real life, the life of Sticky Fingaz, not Kirk Jones."

When’s that dropping?

"As soon as it’s done, and it’s almost done. I mean the album is done we’re just filming the pieces to it. The filming is 85 percent done, maybe 90 percent."

Where did you get the idea to write 'My Dogs Iz My Guns'?

"I think Fredro helped me come up with the concept for that song. It was all about a dog being a mans best friend but in the hood your mother fucking best friend is your gun because who can really trust? Even you friends can turn snakes. Me and Fredro were just talking about it one day and then I just went ahead and laid it down."

Was there ever supposed to be a follow-up to Black Trash?

"There was potentially going to be a follow-up to it but it was never planned or discussed, or anything like that. And the next album I released, Decade, meh… it was an ok album. I didn’t really like that album, I just did it for the money. And I’ll be vocal and the first to tell fans that."

Weren’t you supposed to do a movie to accompany Black Trash?

"I never got the budget to do the movie, and while I maybe had the know how to do it back then I didn’t know that I had the know how to do it. Does that makes sense?"

Are you able to pick your favourite verse from the album?

"That’s impossible! I don’t fucking know. That’s like trying to pick your favourite kid and shit, although I know some parents do have a favourite kid."

So you didn’t have any verse that after you wrote it you were like, “God damn that was incredible”?

"I feel that way with every verse I write."

How come Eminem only did a hook and not a complete verse on the song 'What if I Was White'?

"Since I was talking about what it would be like if I was white I wanted him to rap about what it would be like if he was black but he didn’t want to do it. It goes back to what Chris Rock said: “Nobody wants to be black, even the bus boy wouldn’t trade places with me and I’m rich. He’s like, ‘I’ma ride this white thing out and see where it takes me.’’’ So I’m guessing it was that type of thinking that made him not want to do it. But first I had asked Fred Durst and he said no too. He said we could do any other song he just didn’t want to do that one.

"I was so hell bent on them doing that song. So I asked Eminem and he didn’t want to do it either but I had already done the song 'Remember Me' for his album - it was him, me and RBX with Dr. Dre on the beat. So I tried to come up with a happy medium and I just said, “Well, could you at least just do the chorus?” So he ended up doing the chorus and after he did the chorus he said, “Sticky, I still feel like I owe you because you murdered my song and all I did was some chorus for you that you wrote.” So I told him I would be collecting soon."

Are you still looking to collect on it?

"Yeah, but he changed his number so I can’t find him."

Were there any features on Black Trash that were supposed to happen but didn’t?

“Fred Durst was one. Slipknot was supposed to be on the album, I recorded two songs with them that never made the album. That’s all I can think of right now off the top of my head."

Do you still have the Slipknot songs?

"They’re somewhere, I don’t have them. If I wanted to listen to them right now I couldn’t. Somebody has them at a studio somewhere."

Was it hard to get permission to use Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” for the album’s closing track?

"Yes it was. They didn’t give me permission at first, they denied me. And then Dino Delvaille, my A&R at Universal at that time, he said why don’t you try writing them a letter. So I wrote a letter to whoever it was in charge of his estate at the time telling them why I wanted to use it. They came back and said I could use it but I couldn’t change any of the words. So I was like, “Well that fucking sucks ass!” But whatever, we kept it as it was but there is a dirty version of it floating around the internet somewhere so people can hear it the way it was supposed to be."

It seems like you rarely ever perform any of the songs from the album when you’re out touring. Have you ever played any of the song’s from the album live?

"When I first put out the album I did a tour with Royce Da 5’9” and Nelly and I performed some of the songs on that tour. It was almost like a Broadway style play in a sense. It was a performance but we did some little acting bits mid set too. But I’ve been touring so long with Fredro as Onyx there’s never really been a Sticky Fingaz tour so I’ve never really performed it live."

Are there any plans of perhaps doing an anniversary tour?

"No, there are no plans for an anniversary tour but I am planning on touring the new album so I might squeeze some of the Black Trash songs in as well."

Now that you’ve sat with Black Trash for as long as you have, what’s the best way to describe it to someone who maybe hasn’t heard it?

"It’s a piece of art. One of the greatest rap albums ever made full of concepts and lyrics. A few of your favourite artists making guest appearances. A must hear. Black Trash is a must hear and the new album, It’s About T.I.M.E., is a must see."

  • Click or swipe ahead to see the definitive list of the 50 best rappers of all time - ranked in order of greatness

  • 50. Drake: There would probably have been a wave of hate set to crash us into shore if we didn't include Drizzy in the list. Champagne Papi took over the rap game in 2010 with Thank Me Later and has remained firmly at the top ever since. He is seriously creepy, though. Essentials: 'Underground Kings', 'Back To Back' and 'Poetic Justice'.

  • 49. Schoolboy Q: Gangsta, Gangsta, Gangsta - that's right, Schoolboy Q is a gangsta. As the second best rapper out of the Black Hippy crew, while Kendrick brings the cognitive, Q is fully immersed in the gangsta persona. His rap technique switches every song, making it a diverse but often alienating experience, much like the gangsta life. Essentials: 'Man Of The Year' 'Blessed', 'Gangsta'.

  • 48. Pusha T: Rising to larger prominence after signing to Kanye's Good Music in 2011, Push already had a loyal following as half of hip-hop duo, Clipse. T raps with an unusual, off-kilter style that blends the bizarre with harrowing tales of the life of a successful drug dealer. Essentials: 'Nosetalgia' featuring Kendrick Lamar, 'Exodus 23:1' and 'New God Flow' featuring Kanye West

  • 47. Mick Jenkins: Another fresh injection in this legendary list, this rapidly rising Chicago rapper makes the cut due to his jaw-dropping talent for lyricism and word play. Check out 'Ps and Qs' for a ridiculous journey through the power of alliteration, the track putting any of your GCSE poetry lessons to new levels of shame. Essentials: 'Vibe', 'Jazz' and 'Drink More Water'.

  • 46. Chuck D: It takes a nation of music journalists to fully encapsulate Chuck D's impact on the hip-hop world. While he isn't the most complex or proficient rapper, his delivery has the velocity and blast radius to take down even the most nefarious political agenda. Essentials: 'Fight The Power', '911 Is a Joke', 'Don't Believe The Hype'

  • 45. Method Man: Em Ee Tee Hach Oh Dee Maaaaaan. If ODB was completely off the rails, Method Man was the group's designated loose cannon. For Christ's sake, who else would rhyme "rubber band" with "green eggs and ham". Genius. Essentials: 'The What', 'Method Man'.

  • 44. Joey Bada$$: Wholeheartedly embracing hip-hop with an important injection of freshness and diversity, Joey sits comfortably among some of the greatest lyricists of our time. Since blasting the rap world wide open with his 1999 mixtape, the rapper has gone from strength to strength. Essentials: 'Hardknock', 'Hilary Swank' and 'Paper Trails'.

  • 43. Kool G Rap: It can be argued that without Kool G Rap, there would be no 'Gigwise Top 50 Rappers'. His multi-syllable rhyming style is a hallmark of Kool G Rap and became a style adopted by Jay-Z, Nas and basically every greatest of all time. For New York, Kool G was the counter-offence against the rising dominance of the West Coast. Essentials: 'Fast Life', 'Take 'Em To War', 'Ill Street Blues'.

  • 42. Roots Manuva: Since everyone believes grime is the UK's sole rap export (it's not), it's good to shake things up a bit and play the Roots Manuva-card. Roots is the UK's lifeline to cult rap. His impact is global, but has never achieved commercial success - despite him being one of the most creative minds in the game. His dedication to big beats and observational verses is second-to-none. Essentials: 'Witness', 'Let The Spirit', 'Movements'.

  • 41. Prodigy: On 'The Infamous Prelude', Prodigy predicted the future and rawly attacked hip-hop artists that saturate the genre with over indulgence and glorification . "All them rap-ass n*ggas with your half-assed rhymes talking about how much you get high, how much weed you smoke, and that crazy space shit that don't even make no sense, Don't ever speak to me when you see me." Prodigy is the real article for gangster rap, spitting vividly about the troubles of growing up in a fiercely unbalanced world.

  • 40. Danny Brown: Definitely the most unique voice of the millennial rappers, Danny Brown's nasal stylings often distract from the fact he's a fucking great rapper. Tales of a ghetto upbringing mixed with hedonistic ventures, this toothless wonder is the star of alternative hip-hop right now and is constantly pushing boundaries with every release. Essentials: 'Dope Song', 'Radio Song', 'Kush Coma'.

  • 39. Del Tha Funkee Homosapien: More than just that voice off those Gorillaz tracks and Tony Hawk Pro Skater, Del was one of the innovators of alternative rappers who threw tradition to the wind and fully embraced their personalities. His flows and cadences were heavily inspired by roots music, making Del the perfect entry-level rapper for anyone looking to get into hip hop outside of 'Mistadobalina'. Essentials: 'Preservation', '30 30', 'Mastermind'.

  • 38. Posdnuos: The main voice of De La Soul - and therefore the voice of the golden age of hip-hop. The 80s was hip-hop's most prolific time but no groups were doing what Native Tongues were striving for. Excluding Tip, Pos was the forerunner for direct, child-friendly, fun-loving, adjective-inspiring rap that was simultaneously engaging and simple - a hard balance to manage. Essentials: 'Potholes In My Lane', 'Ring Ring Ring', 'Ghetto Thang'.

  • 37. Big Pun: Described as one of the Latin Kings of hip-hop, he's a pundamental (sorry) figure in the rap world and is renowned for his ridiculously rapid flow and slight obsession with alliteration. Essentials: 'Still Not A Player', 'It's So Hard', 'Beware'.

  • 36. Black Milk: Curtis Cross is a rapper/producer and an underrated veteran in the world of rap. Coming up with likes of J Dilla and Pharoahe Monch, Black Milk rapidly developed his producing and rapping skills, applying intricacy and a fresh approach to both. For production alone, his latest album, If There's A Hell Below, is a sonic feat for the ears. Essentials: 'Everyday Was Me'

  • 35. Earl Sweatshirt: Some new blood deserves a place in this list, and who better than one of the most creative rappers out there at the moment. Earl could have comfortably stuck to the rape and pillage trajectory of Odd Future's rise, but on his mysterious return, chose to break away from that aesthetic, enhancing his production chops and embracing a range of different flows that are practically untouchable. Essentials - 'Luper', 'Hive', 'Quest/Power'.

  • 34. Missy Elliott: Back in February of this year, Missy tweeted, "The new kids think I'm a new artist and I'm bout 2 blow up." How wrong they are. Missy has affirmed herself as one of hip hop's greats and is the only female rapper with six platinum albums. Essentials: 'Get Ur Freak One', 'Work It'.

  • 33. Ol' Dirty Bastard: He lived life raw, what more can we say? Essentials: 'Shimmy Shimmy Ya', 'Brooklyn Zoo', 'I Like It Raw'.

  • 32. Pharoahe Monch: This NYC is renowned for his complexity. While he doesn't have the mass success of Jay-Z or the everlasting hype of Jay Electronica, Monch holds his own by pure proficiency. With only four albums across a 15 year span, Monch is an artist that savours and obsesses over every rhyme. The least you can do for the man is listen. Essentials: 'D.R.E.A.M', 'Welcome To The Terradome', 'Simon Says'.

  • 31. Snoop Dogg: Dre's first protege in the wake of N.W.A's fallout, Dee Oh Double Gee is most notable for his supporting role as Huggy Bear in Starsky and Hutch. Essentials: 'Still Dre', 'Gin And Juice' and 'Nuthin' But A G Thang'.

  • 30. Xzibit: Before X to the Z was pimping rides and then selling them for parts, he was actually an incredibly accomplished rapper, touring with Eminem while harnessing a direct and poignant flow which left little to no room for strange rap genius interpretations; "Ashes to ashes and dust to dust, I might leave in a body bag but never in cuffs." Essentials: 'What's The Difference featuring Eminem and Dr. Dre', 'Don't Approach Me'.

  • 29. Big Boi: While Andre 3000 was the consistent pop voice in the duo, Big Boi's obtuse and more aggressive lyricism was a flavour of the south that Andre couldn't provide single-handedly. With a flow rhythm that can U-turn at any second, Big Boi may stand in the shadow of Andre in Outkast's more upbeat cuts but he's an artist that is never predictable and pulls out much needed introspection when tracks veer too far into the realm of indulgent. Essentials: 'Snappin' & Trappin'', 'The Train', 'ATliens'.

  • 28. Ice Cube: The main mastermind lyricist behind Eazy E and Dr. Dre's verses throughout N.W.A's discography, Cube forged his own path after the group's inevitable breakdown. He spits with so much energy and power that we can even forgive him for the Are We There Yet family franchise. Essentials: 'Straight Outta Compton', 'No Vaseline', 'It Was A Good Day'.

  • 27. Common: A member of Kanye's Good Music and one of the rappers at the forefront of conscious hip-hop, Common has a silky smooth way with words and often wears his heart on his sleeve in a genre where saving face has become a stale pattern. Essentials: 'I Used To Love H.E.R', 'So Far To Go'

  • 26. Lauryn Hill: The glue that held the Fugees together, with her solo work Lauryn Hill seamlessly blended funk, soul and hip hop on gloriously hard tracks like 'Lost Ones' and 'Final Hour'. 1998's The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill is still her only solo album, and we're all holding our breath for some new music very soon. Essentials: 'Lost Ones', 'Ex Factor' and 'Killing Me Softly With His Song'.

  • 25. Aesop Rock: A mathematical study showed last year that Aesop Rock has the largest vocabulary in hip-hop by a substantial lead, beating even Shakespeare. A mythical figure in the early noughties underground circles, Aesop's referential and sentimental raps resonate with the nerd culture of hip-hop and those that have a penchant for mental instability and verbosity. Essentials: 'ZZZ Top', 'Battery', 'Citronella'.

  • 24. Slick Rick: The master of storytelling, we forget that proficient MCing is about reflecting reality. While Rick's personal life wasn't often the centrepiece for his rhymes, this rapper's ability to draw an audience and spin a tale with wordplay was is still unmatched to the day. There's a reason Rick is the most sampled rapper in history. Essentials: 'Children's Story', 'La Di Da Di', 'I Shouldn't Have Done It'.

  • 23. Rakim: For better or worse, Rakim monetised hip-hop. While this did lead to some of the culture's most abhorrent instances, as fans of the music we have to believe that the 5'6" wonder's skilful lyricism and ability to weave a story within a bar was for the greater good. Despite Rakim transforming the Golden Age into an age about gold chains and stacks, the competition and hunger behind his lines will always be his legacy. Essentials: 'Paid In Full', 'Follow The Leader', 'Addictive'.

  • 22. RZA: The Abbot, Bobby Digital, The Rzarector, The leader of the Wu-Tang Clan, the RZA is solely responsible for the curation and inception of hip-hop's most creative and musically transcending group. The amount of verses and production knowledge that stemmed from that first exploration of the 36 Chambers is immeasurable. 10 members of the Wu-Tang who lived by the sword for the RZA and his stupendous talent as both rapper, producer and Shaolin master. Essentials: 'Show U Love', '4th Chamber', 'Impossible'.

  • 21. Q-Tip: AKA The Abstract, Tip is a warming and golden aged voice in the world of hip-hop. While trap and pop-rap have taken control of the public eye, there's no music fan alive that can resist the lightning fast flow and nasal tones of Tip. His work with Tribe is unparalleled and his solo career has, while spotty, provided some gems that cross-pollinate the now with the then. Essentials: 'Award Tour', 'Excursions', 'Feelin'.

  • 20. Busta Rhymes: Public Enemy's very own Chuck D named Busta after NFL player George 'Buster' Rhymes. The iconic rapper is a true Leader of the New School who spits with a ridiculously fast flow rife in strong wordplay and playful imagery, questionably sexist but still a staple in the hip-hop world. Essentials: 'Thankyou', 'Gimme Some More'.

  • 19. Killer Mike: The inherited chief of Atlanta, Michael Render spent too long edging the borders of the greats before he became widely appreciated via the success of Run The Jewels. Killer set out to become one of the all-time greats and is getting closer and closer every verse, his delivery has the pushing-power to floor a rhino and his interest in politics and injustice will keep him spitting true for years to come. Essentials: 'Ghetto Gospel', 'Burn', 'Early'.

  • 18. MF DOOM: The champion of alternative rap, Doom pours every part of himself into his music - except his identity. As reflective as the mask on his face, Daniel Dumile's impressive collaborations and wide discography is unique in thematics and has more lyrical depth than any other rapper in history. For all his weirdness and cartoon aesthetics, DOOM is an irreplaceable part of hip-hop culture. Essentials: 'Accordion', 'Rhymin Slang', 'DOOMsday'.

  • 17. GZA: Regarded as the 'cerebral' member of the Wu-Tang, GZA's wordplay and expansive grasp on the world order makes him the third strongest and verbose member of the rap Shaolin. Liquid Swords is evidence enough - GZA spits with a matching viscera of an fresh rapper on the scene right now embedded in a profundity that can only be achieved by years of excelling in the chambers. Essentials: 'Cold World', 'Duel of the Iron Mic', 'Protect Ya Neck'.

  • 16. Raekwon: 'The Chef' of Wu-Tang, Raekwon is arguably the best rapper in the group (after Ghostface... and RZA... and, damn it they're all too good.) He raps with a fierce assonance and every syllable he spits is soaked in punch and purpose. Essentials: 'Eye For a Eye featuring Mobb Deep'

  • 15. Talib Kweli - Rising to prominence and putting east coast rap back on the map with Mos Def and Blackstar, Kewli has solidified himself as a rap veteran who still spits with strength and resilience to this day. He's also another stupidly talented freestyler, combining sentences effortlessly that simply don't belong together. Essentials: 'Get By' and 'Black Girl Pain'

  • 14. Lupe Fiasco: Hailed for his socially aware approach and crazily dense lyricism, Lupe walks the fine line between conscious and super accessible. His freestyling skills are out of hand as well - the true mark of a talented rapper. Essentials: 'Kick Push', 'Jonlyah Forever' and 'American Terrorist'.

  • 13) Black Thought: Often cited for being the bloke off of Jimmy Fallon's show rather than the most consistently show-stopping voice in hip-hop, Black Thought's work with The Roots is an unmistakable piece of history. Thought's lyrical flexibility gathers momentum and can blow any feature performance out of the water with its pure majesty. There is no rapper alive who can turn or stack a phrase like Thought, he understands the craft better than most. Essentials: 'Dynamite', 'The Imperial', 'Thought @ Work'.

  • 12. Mos Def: Simply one of the coolest cats in the rap game, Mos Def sits firmly amongst the greats, due to his vivid rhyming style, as well as the tracks he set in motion after joining forces with the mighty Talib Kwali for Blackstar. He's also got some great acting chops, too. Essentials: 'Hurricane' and 'Mathematics'

  • 11. Big L: After fierce debate, L slips just out of our top 10, but his influence on a sea of huge rappers is pretty undeniable. Renowned for his effortless flow and storytelling prowess, L bounces on every track with accessible intricacy and crisply cool assonance. He also has flashes of brilliance when he raps absolutely relentlessly. Maybe the guy has gills. Essentials: 'Street Struck', 'MVP' and 'Fed Up With That Bullshit'.

  • 10. Ghostface Killah: If not the most talented, definitely the most prolific of the Wu-Tang Clan, Ghostface Killah doesn't seem to have slacked any year since he left the 36 chambers. His scorching flow is instantly recognisable, and while the days of the Wu or his first solo releases were Ghost's peak, check out his work with DOOMSTARKS or with Adrian Younge to see Ghost out of his comfort zone and the best he's spat in recent years. Essentials: 'Apollo Kids', 'All That I Got Is You', 'Run'.

  • 9) Andre 3000: Outkast reinvented Southern rap for the mainstream, and a big part of this phenomenon is Andre 3000's idiosyncratic verses. They stretch across the spectrum of disgusting, informative, catchy and hilarious, are packed to the brim with heart - and are timeless. It's a bold claim, sure, but Andre 3000 is the Jimi Hendrix of rap. Essentials: 'B.O.B', 'Aquemini', 'Elevators'.

  • 8. Eminem: Mr Mathers, Slim Shady, B-Rabbit; whatever you want to call him and whatever you may think of his more recent output, he's responsible for three of the most seminal hip-hop albums of all time. The Slim Shady LP, The Marshall Mathers LP and The Eminem Show all shine brightly in uniquely different ways, from the warped and deranged alter ego of Slim Shady on 'Brain Damage' to the ferociously precise spitting of Eminem on 'Till I Collapse'. Essentials: 'If I Had', 'Criminal' and 'Say What You Say'.

  • 7. Kanye West: A true artist through and through, Kanye West is a genius and there's no denying that. For every young kid in Chicago over the last decade that decided to embrace their personality and use it to create, whether it's music or pottery or game design, Kanye is the figure that stands for this progression. Forget celebrity status, forget Zane Lowe interviews, forget Glastonbury, as a rapper and an artist, Kanye West is this generation's creative idol. Essentials: 'Power', 'Through The Wire', 'Last Call'.

  • 6. Jay Electronica: Jay is the true backpacker's artist, adored by any die hard fans of hip-hop music. Despite a lack of consistent content and his refusal to drop that debut album everybody's longing for, the elusive New Orleans rapper makes our top 10 because he's simply one of the most interesting rappers out there. Essentials: 'Exhibit C', 'Eternal Sunshine' and 'Better In Tune With The Infinite'.

  • 5. Jay Z: 'I'm not a business man, I'm a business, man.' Jay has evolved into more than just a rapper, dipping his toe in every possible business venture imaginable, from fine art to music streaming with his shaky Tidal venture. Take these aspects out of the equation, though, and you have one of the sharpest lyricists and charismatic artists of our time, with Jay painting stark and unforgettable images of life as a hustler on the streets of New York. Essentials: 'What More Can I say', 'December 4th' and 'D.O.A'.

  • 4. Tupac: As far as anyone embedded in the music world, Tupac is the poster-boy for hip-hop and ideals of peace. What Tupac should really be revered for is his unhinged personality and the writing products that stemmed from this walking paradox. An endorser of music above all things, Tupac was simultaneously manoeuvring in shadier territories giving a duality to his music, a genuine facet of genius that is often swept under the carpet in order to promote some half-baked figure of 'peace'. Essentials: 'Untouchable', 'Ghetto Gospel', 'California Love'.

  • 3. The Notorious B.I.G: It's all 'business instead of games' (B.I.G) as the late Biggie Smalls leapfrogs (probably with great difficulty) over Tupac for the No.3 spot. Regardless of the arguably negative impact he created by bringing 'money rap' to the forefront of hip-hop culture, nobody can deny his lyrical talents and infectious flare for colourful story-telling. Essentials: 'Hypnotize', 'The Wickedest Freestyle' and 'Warning'.

  • 2. Kendrick Lamar: An artist that has dragged West Coast rap out of the dirge of hedonism and excess, Kendrick is an intellectualist voice of a people who are subjected to a treatment unbefitting of them. There is no wiser artistic voice in the music world. While Kanye inspires and Drake entertains, Kendrick strives, and always will strive, to inform the unformed and stimulate the minds of those that believe they are mindless. Essentials: 'A.D.H.D', 'm.A.A.d City', 'Wesley's Theory'.

  • 1. Nas: The best rapper of all time, Nas represents the bridge between the genesis and progression of the culture of hip-hop. He is deeply invested in music - but something ultimately much greater than the scope of loops, breaks and verses. Originally, Nas was a prodigious voice in a culture that is programmed to try and stifle him. Hip hop, at its core, is a reactionary art form, and no one is more emblematic of that fact than Nas. Essentials: 'Memory Lane', 'NY State of Mind', 'Ether'.

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Photo: WENN